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In larger cases, when multiple parties are involved, everything would come down to the level of involvement of the accused, my client. Because of the nature of the investigation, there will be wiretaps approved by a judge and a law enforcement officer will have to provide something similar to a search warrant, as a statement of probable cause, to a judge with the assistance of a prosecuting attorney, who will sign off on these wiretaps, to listen in on conversations.
GPS is another interesting area of law; warrants were not needed initially, but recent case law says that a warrant is needed if a GPS device is to be placed on someone’s vehicle. Ultimately, if someone is prosecuted, the defenses would stem from bother their level of involvement and their knowledge of what was going on; they will have to show whether the person was simply asked to deliver a package to someone or they knew what was in the package. It has to do with their knowledge of what was taking place, the legality of the warrant issued and whether an arrest warrant and/or a search warrant was issued and the truth within those warrants.
Often, these cases also involve informants; defense attorneys should file proper motions and make proper arguments in front of the court, to provide information regarding the informant and any special treatment they may have received. We want to exploit their biases and the veracity of any information they were provided that became the basis of the warrant, so it can become very complicated to look at all of these things when preparing a defense, which is why it’s important to have an attorney involved early on when these types of cases present themselves.
On larger cases, investigators will conduct surveillance, and there may be an unmarked control vehicle communicating with other local law enforcement to get probable cause for a traffic violation so they can conduct a traffic stop. A dog may then be brought in to sniff for drugs; the law is changing over whether it is lawful to bring the dog in right away on a simple traffic stop. Another interesting aspect comes when law enforcement swoops in and seizes a vehicle, while letting the person go.
One expects a major bust involving a large amount of narcotics and/or money in hidden compartments in a vehicle to be a very easy arrest; they may think this person was simply a mule, being used to transport a piece of evidence someone else, perhaps a bigger player, so rather than botch the investigation by arresting them, they may make a seizure and simply track the person, although the question is whether the seizure and the continued surveillance is lawful or if they need to get a warrant for some things that were involved. Many defenses can be raised, so it’s important to have an attorney involved early in the process, to take a thorough and detailed look at the information being presented in warrants, to see if it justified these types of stops and communications.
The schedules are delineated based on the level of danger, addictiveness; they start with schedule 1 and move down to schedule 5; schedule 1 drugs include things like marijuana, heroin and hallucinogens, which are categorized that way because the government decided there are no health benefits. Ironically, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug, even though a tremendous number of studies have shown that it has medical uses, which is why there are medical marijuana prescriptions.
Possession for sale of marijuana is punishable under Health & Safety Code, Section 11359, as are all drug-related cases, and possession of marijuana for sale can bring either 16 months, two years or 3 years, which can be served in the county jail because of prison overcrowding. Since legislation was passed a couple of years ago due to state prison overcrowding, people charged with non-violent, non-serious offenses, including non-personal use drug crimes, serve their time in the county jail.
Transportation and/or distribution for sale is a felony that can bring two years, three years, or 4 years, so it’s a more serious term in jail. If the marijuana was 28.5 grams or less, they’ll be charged with a misdemeanor and get a $100 fine, so there is a tremendous disparity based on the amount, although that’s just with marijuana. When it comes to possession for sale of other narcotics or controlled substances, those fall under the Health & Safety Code, Section 11351, and bring a two, three or four-years jail term, similar to cocaine, which has its own subsection, while transportation of other narcotics can bring three, four or five years under Section 11352.
Another thing to examine is the weight enhancements; if the amount of narcotics is over a certain weight, it will greatly enhance the punishment, as will prior convictions for drug-related offenses or if firearms were involved or found at the location. Search warrants are often conducted to find the narcotics, but many other things can factor into the potential for punishment other than the code section and the underlying base punishments of the crime.
For more information on Common Drug Defenses and Schedules, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you’re seeking by calling (626) 714-3112 today.
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